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SNAIL by Richard Miller



Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1984
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston

It's been nearly 20 years since Miller's raunchy cartoon-satire Amerloque--and he is still writing in that now-dated Zap Comix style: this novel of metamorphosis goes off with undeniable verve and determination, mixing Vonnegut with Ovid, sci-fi with hippy-dippy paranoia. The premise: Nazi Field Marshal Baron Werner von Blomberg, a Hitler confidant at the end, is saved from self-destruction by the intervention of the Wandering Jew (a.k.a. George Baxter); Blomberg is turned into a 16-year-old again rather than an inglorious corpse--and it's only the first of several incarnations for the Field Marshal. Calling himself Allen Edricson, he meets up with the goddess Athena and goes from Paris to New Orleans--where he works for a time at a bestiality magazine. Then it's on to San Francisco, with Blomberg always searching for the key, the three ""pieces of power"" that together unlock all energy. In the meantime, though, he's continuously subject to Athena's whims: he's forever being changed into a woman, back to a man, then into a snail. (There are literary avatars, too: in homage, Miller works in Vonnegut's character Kilgore Trout--released as he was by authorial dispensation from Breakfast of Champions.) Those who read dozens of novels like this through the Sixties and early Seventies will suffer severe dÉjà vu--as Miller does old prose-riff routines: ""an endless mural showing more trilobites, in fossils, underwater, evolving into crustaceans, studying malacology, flying to the moon, winning the West, waiting for the bus, playing spaz-rock, chorusing Zenry's Christmas Cheer, counterfeiting cancer beer, riding blue flies to hitherto unattainable altitudes, visiting the vulcanologist, playing nuclear pinball. . ."" etc. But the pace is pell-mell, the narrative is engagingly skewed; and in short bursts--such as the quite lovely astonished readjustments Allen must make when he realizes he's a woman--this bouncily derivative fantasy is modestly enjoyable.